Olympic Bonus: Gabby Douglas


by Claude Julian

The whole world was glued to their television as gold-medal winner Gabrielle Douglas captured the imagination of millions as the first woman of color and the first African-American in Olympic history to become the individual all-around champion. Gabby is also the first American gymnast to win gold in both the individual all-around champion, and team competitions at the same Olympics (2012). Gabby starred as a member of the gold-winning U.S. team at the 2011 World Championships. This 16 year old sensation has paid a critical price in back flipping into stardom with constant criticism about her keen African features. A staffer at her small-town gym suggested she consider getting a nose job! The punch lines and mean spirited comments continued as “haters” through social media outlets voiced their issue with the up keep of her hair.

“I’m sorry the teen gymnast was busy executing back flips on a 2 ½ inch balancing beam as she risked bodily harm with a fraction of an inch mistake meaning failure and the potential to lose millions in endorsement money. It is completely ridiculous to criticize a world class athlete with many, selfish and baseless insights on hair control!”

Stunner Baby Magazine supports and applauds the trailblazing achievements this teen mega star deservingly achieved through her mother’s (Natalie Hawkins) vision. Gabby began training in gymnastics at age six when her older sister, Arielle, convinced their mother to enroll her in gymnastics classes. She began her training under the supervision of Coach Dena Walker at Excalibur Gymnastics in Virginia Beach.  At the age of eight, Gabby won the Level 4 all-around gymnastics title at the 2004 Virginia State Championships. She made her national debut at the 2012 Nastia Liukin Supergirl Cup, a televised Level 10 meet held in Worcester, Massachusetts, where Gabby placed fourth all-around. Her first elite meet was the 2012 Covergirl Classic in Chicago, Illinois, where she placed third on the balance beam, 6th on vault and 9th all-around in the junior division.  At the 2010 U.S. Junior National Championships, Gabby won the silver medal on balance beam, placed fourth all-around and on vault, and tied for eighth on floor exercise. Also, the 2010 Pan American Championships in Guadalajara, Mexico, Gabby won the uneven bars title, and she won a share of the U.S. team gold medal. She also placed fifth all-around. In October, at age 14, Gabby moved from Virginia Beach to West Des Moines, Iowa to train under Liang Chow, the former coach of 2007 World Champion and 2008 Summer Olympics gold medalist Shawn Johnson. She was home schooled by her host family.

Although Gabby’s’ former coach, Walker, stated in 2012 that she was convinced Gabby could have made it to the Olympics if she had remained in Virginia Beach, Gabby said, “Something clicked in my head that said, if I really want to make this happen I need to get better coaching.” The impetus for Gabby’s move to Iowa was when Walker had invited Chow to teach a clinic at her gym, Excalibur. Gabby was impressed when Chow was able to teach her how to perform the Amanar vault in a single afternoon. Gabby considered a move to Texas to train with a renowned coach there, but after that coach declined to train her out of loyalty to Walker, Gabby selected Chow. Chow was initially skeptical, since Douglas had been just one of hundreds of kids at the clinic in Virginia Beach. Later Chow agreed to coach her to Olympic Gold.

At the AT&T American Cup at Madison Square Garden in March, Douglas received the highest total all-around score in the women’s competition, ahead of her teammate and current world champion Jordyn Wieber. However, her scores did not count towards winning the competition because she was an alternate. Later in March, she was part of the gold-winning U.S. team at the Pacific Rim Championships, where she also won gold in uneven bars.  At the 2012 U.S. National Championships in June, Douglas won the gold medal in uneven bars, silver in the all-around and bronze in floor. Martha Karolyi, the National Team Coordinator for USA Gymnastics, nicknamed Gabby the “Flying Squirrel” for her aerial performance on the uneven bars.

After winning a spot on the U.S. women’s Olympic gymnastics team, Douglas and her teammates were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated on the July 18, 2012 Olympic Preview issue. This marked the first time an entire Olympic gymnastics team had been featured on the cover of the magazine.  The endorsement machine gained momentum as (August 3, 2012) the Kellogg Company announced that it would feature a picture of Gabby standing on the podium with her gold medal on special-edition boxes of Corn Flakes in the fall. This breaks the tradition of Olympic athletes appearing on Wheaties boxes. On August 13, Gabby appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, which also featured U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama.

On August 26th, in a candid interview with Oprah Winfrey’s (OWN Network), Gabby claims that she was bullied and the target of racism at the Virginia gym where she used to train called Excalibur Gymnastics. It has sparked a backlash online, with everyone from the facility’s CEO to a former teammate’s mother weighing in.  Douglas spoke about how the racist bullying nearly made her quit the sport. She described an incident in which she had heard other girls at the gym say “Why doesn’t Gabby do it? She’s our slave.” when chalk needed to be scraped off the bars. The CEO of Excalibur Gymnastics, Gustavo Maure, has denied these claims. In September 2012, Nintendo announced that Gabby would be part of a new ad campaign for Mario Bros. 2.  Gabby’s celebrity shines bright on the grand stage of public opinion, racism, icon status and history making endorsements. “You Go Gabby!”


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